One of the most miserable travel experiences happened to me when I was in Mexico. It was December 1973 and I had just spent an action packed week in Puerto Vallarta over the Christmas Holidays. As this was my first real trip to Mexico – previously I had only traveled to the border towns of Tijuana and Juarez – I decided to extend my stay an extra 14 days to explore the country. The plan was to take the bus from Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific Coast to Merida located in the Yucatan Peninsula. The bus trip itself was very enjoyable as I got a chance to see Mexico’s many tropical landscapes – from the jungles of the Pacific Coast to the mountainous interior of central region to the lowland rainforests of the Yucatan Peninsula. To break up the long journey I stopped over in Guadalajara and Mexico City – Mexico’s two largest cities - and on the long final leg from Mexico City to Merida I layed over in Villahermosa, the capital city of the state of Tabasco.
After a long and arduous 14-hour bus ride from Mexico City, the bus arrived in Villahermosa at about 9:00PM. As soon as I stepped off the bus, I started sweating bullets. The weather was unbelievably hot and muggy even though late December is traditionally one of the more comfortable times of the year. In addition to the unbearable humidity, the air was thick with the smell of oil. Built on top of reclaimed swampland, just recently Villahermosa had become a major oil refinery center and this Gulf city was becoming a real boomtown.
Checking into a budget hotel in the middle of the downtown area, I was immediately greeted by a couple of bloodthirsty mosquitoes when I entered my room. To say that the room was infested with mosquitoes is an understatement. Walking outside into muggy evening air, I decided to look for accommodations at a first class hotel – I had to escape from the mosquitoes. I didn’t have much luck, as all the better (and more expensive) hotels were all booked up. That first night in Villahermosa was total misery – my room was like a sauna, and it seemed that the whole night I was occupied with swatting mosquitoes. I must have killed at least 20 of those bloodsuckers.
The following morning, I checked out of my hotel. Hopping into a taxi and asked the driver to take me to a decent hotel. Driving along the highway which leads out of town, I ended up at a lowrise bungalow affair which was surrounded by profuse tropical vegetation. After touring La Venta, Villahermosa’s famous archaeological park in the afternoon, I returned to my hotel. I didn’t fare any better in my new surroundings, as the problem with mosquitoes was just as bad as the first night. After another sleepless night of swatting mosquitoes and getting sucked, the next morning I was enormously relieved to catch a bus out of Villahermosa to Merida. Needless to say, I will not return any time soon.